I lost track of popular culture sometime in the 80s, and now I’m permanently stuck with big hair and thin ties. It’s not that I don’t like contemporary stuff; I do (pick and choose) but I have no idea who does what or even when. For example, I was shocked to hear Destiny’s Child on my Classic (read — Old Man) Rock Radio station — so I looked it up. My God! That was 20 years ago! Anyway, I said all that to say I’m no expert on anything in the 21st century, but that’s not going to stop me from having an opinion.
So… Last week, YouTube announced that it has a new “Most Watched” music video. More people have clicked, looked and listened to this 2 minute track than any other song in human history. It’s “Baby Shark!” Just when I thought it was safe to finally come out of the closet and admit I actually like “Let it Go,” the mega-annoying tweenie hit from Frozen, apparently, two-year-olds have taken over the world. (What next? Womb music?) Okay, okay, okay! It’s a phenom: over 7 billion hits is nothing to sneeze at, but there’s a bigger question going on here. Why is “Baby Shark” even in the conversation? It’s not real! It’s a novelty babysitter song for stressed-out parents who need a minute to sneak away and eat a candy bar or have a pee – in peace. Here’s the deal. Millions of chubby little fingers tapped this redundant little ditty to Numero Uno in the universe — even though most of those little fingers haven’t even mastered a knife and fork yet. Unfortunately, that pushed all the good stuff out of the way. “Despacito” (one of the best videos I’ve seen in years) got knocked off the top spot, and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” was moved to third. (BTW, how did that guy become a heartthrob? Yeah, he can sing, but if he’s sexy, I should have girls lined up around the block — and I’m old.) Meanwhile, “Uptown Funk” in its original incarnation is 6th and the mighty “Gangnam Style,” the video that started it all (first to one billion!) is now 7th! My point is, these are all recognizable songs, musical renditions of something — even if it’s only an aging K-Popper leaping around as if he has an unfortunate itch. Putting “Baby Shark” in that mix is like including Velvet Elvis in the National Portrait Gallery because it’s on so many trailer park walls. Face it, folks! Sheer numbers are not always the best way to rank things.
Way back in the day (1958, to be exact) when Perry Como got the world’s first Gold Record for a million sales of “Catch a Falling Star,” that number actually meant something. It meant people were willing to take the time and trouble to leave the house and go to a record store; and, more importantly, it meant they were willing to shell out some hard coin to take Mr. Como home with them. That’s a lot different from showing your kid how to click “play” cuz you need time to fold the laundry. These two should be treated differently.
I understand that a million isn’t what it used to be, and even a billion won’t get you into the top 20 on YouTube. However, I do think if YouTube wants to be taken seriously, they shouldn’t be rolling out those numbers quite so promiscuously. Quite frankly, more isn’t preordained to be better. If you’re using that flawed logic, sheep should be running the show in Australia. After all, there are 3 times as many of them down there as there are people.